What’s the deal with your name, Zorndyke? Zorndyyyyyyyyke!
So I was thinking that I’m not really sure I can describe how xenophobic and morally irresponsible Blue Submarine No. 6 is without sounding like zee hysteric who will take zee dumb action anime *way too seriously*.
But then I realized that hey!, I pretty much am. So.
So, we’ve got Hayami, the aloof, uninterestingly broody ace submarine pilot who’s asked to come out of retirement (he’s like, twenty) to save the world from mutant fishmen. This is all very serious. He always has a cigarette and laughs bitterly and says shallow, generically cynical things about human nature, which in real life would mean that you are twelve and unhappy with your complexion, but in anime means that you have seen much and it has left you not-the-man-you-once-were and *girls like you*.
The archvillain is a clinically depressed geneticist named Zorndyke – he created the fishmen, and claims to be planning to destroy all humankind with implausible science. He hacks teleconferences to say shallow, generically cynical things about human nature and act creepy and enigmatic. He’s got that whole glowing-glasses thing going on.
Apparently something about all this impresses our heroes, particularly Hayami, because at tense moments people will intone “Zorndyke…” and stare off to the horizon with knitted brows, pondering this profound enigma. If uninspired angst were this sexy in real life, teenagers would have a lot less to *be* angsty about. It’s a conundrum.
The subvillain – the one who actually gets his hands dirty – is the psychotic king of the fishmen, who may or may not have had a name and who calls Zorndyke “Papa” and is creepily devoted to him and feels betrayed by Zorndyke’s lukewarm responses to his killings. We see lots of Bakshi-esque scenes where King Fishman is going berserk and banging on metal things with the other furries.
Also, there are the two girls who like Hayami – Kino, the obligatory excitable idealist human girl, and the sad mute fishgirl whose life he saves early on. Fishgirl is in an abusive relationship with King Fishman; there is an off-screen rape. Fishgirl has no name.
The hero ends up with the human girl, and Fishgirl goes back to her rapist.
Here’s how this goes. The finale is Hayami and Kino confronting Zorndyke at his antarctic hideout. Zorndyke explains that he created the fish people because he was disillusioned about humanity because we have nukes and use them. Also because he was bored with reengineering wheat. I think. Girl screams at him about all the people he’s killing, and he asks her wisely, “Do you hate me? Will killing me make it better? Will it take the hate away? Am I being patronizing enough? Shall I pat you on the head?” She actually responds to these questions. Hayami asks Zorndyke, “Are you testing humanity?” Well, yes, yes, he is – and they will have failed if the army nukes him. Zorndyke has set up his doomsday devices so that they will only go off if his base gets nuked. Which the other humans are preparing to do right then.
Hayami and Kino looked shocked and ashamed. Zorndyke is suddenly in the position of moral authority.
Zorndyke explains that he isn’t actually in control of the fishmen, they’re adults and make their own decisions now, just like humans. (This doesn’t synch with what we saw earlier, when King Fishman was clearly obsessed with getting Zorndyke’s approval, but, yeah.) Wise-Old-Zorndyke requests that the humans and fishmen try to get along with each other and co-exist peacefully, and his eyes meet Hayami’s significantly.
Kino goes to radio the rest of the merry men and tell them not to use the nukes, because she is the girl, and Hayami shoots Zorndyke, off-screen. There have been by this point several dozen nasty onscreen deaths – I think Zorndyke is actually the only character to die privately. Then we see the fishpeople doing Zorndyke’s funeral procession, which gets busted up by a traumatized King Fishman, whose army has been routed while all that talking was going on.
Hayami attempts to tell King Fishman about Zorndyke’s wish for humans and fishpeople to learn to understand one another and get along, while King Fishman beats on him and screams at him for having killed Papa. King Fishman has been wearing this collar thing that translates between fishperson and human language for the whole OVA – he rips it off and storms back into the water, where Fishgirl touches his wounds and drifts away with him, murmuring Hayami’s name, the only word she can say.
But the world has been saved and the war is over, and the people on the submarine are celebrating, and it’s obviously supposed to be a happy ending.
Here we have an egomaniacal mad scientist with no facial expression who has caused the deaths of millions. Over there, we have two scared, extremely emotional characters with simple, transparent motivations – but they’re from a different race and culture from the main character. Hayami is able to have a deeply philosophical conversation about understanding and peace with Zorndyke, but when he tries to talk to Fishman, Fishman just hits him. He can’t talk to Fishgirl at all. Apparently, you can never truly communicate with someone from another culture – you’re is closer to your own people’s murderers than to the outsider who loves you.
Hayami and the Fishgirl was never even an option. She was always going to be closer to the guy who raped her than the guy who saved her life.
Or maybe it’s actually worse than that – because though Zorndyke *says* the fishpeople are just people who are different, the way they’re portrayed is never value-neutral. We never see them doing anything but blowing things up and abusing each other. Hayami does try to talk, but the Fishman doesn’t want to. It’s not just that the divide is insurmountable, it’s that it’s *the other guy’s fault*.
I can’t believe I’m writing all this earnest intercultural comm-textbook crap about Blue Submarine No. 6. Did I mention how Zorndyke’s doomsday device works? (This is not a spoiler.) It’s supposed to switch the earth’s magnetic poles, which the anime thinks will cause the tectonic plates to shatter and the continents to somehow sink. Your love is like bad geology, Blue Sub.